Enhancing the Ability of Adults with Mental Retardation to Recognize Facial Expressions of Emotion

Christopher Mcalpine, Nirbhay N. Singh, Cynthia R. Ellis, Kathy A. Kendall, Christianne Hampton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The ability to recognize accurately and respond appropriately to facial expressions of emotion is essential for interpersonal interaction. Individuals with mental retardation typically are deficient in these skills. The ability of 7 adults, 1 with severe and 6 with moderate mental retardation, to recognize facial expressions of emotion correctly was assessed. Then, they were taught this skill using a combination of a discrimination training procedure for differentiating facial movements, directed rehearsal, and Eknman and Friesen's “flashing photograph” technique. Their average increase in accuracy over baseline was at least 30% during the course of the training and over 50% during the last 5 days of the training phase. Further, these individuals were able to generalize their skills from posed photographs to videotaped role plays and were able to maintain their enhanced skiUs during the 8 to 9 months following the termination of training. This is the first study to show that individuals with mental retardation can be taught skills that enhance their ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-573
Number of pages15
JournalBehavior Modification
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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